Less than a week after cold weather caused power outages in several New Orleans neighborhoods and several months ahead of the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, the New Orleans City Council on Thursday ordered Entergy New Orleans to file a series of reports with detailed information about its ability to prepare for and recover from severe weather events.
The council’s Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee gave the company specific deadlines, varying from two months to six months, to submit seven reports on a variety of topics including the condition of transmission and distribution poles, a timeline and cost analysis for moving some overhead transmission and distribution facilities underground and a status report on the company’s plan to elevate or waterproof substation equipment.
Council members said the information, some of which has been sought for years, would inform decisions the council makes about how to ensure that residents receive reliable service from the utility.
“More importantly, what the resolution is intended to do is to have the company provide more than a statement, to have them provide analytical support for any conclusion they are drawing in terms of storm hardening,” said Joe Vumbaco, a technical adviser to the council on utility matters.
Vumbaco said flying debris and untrimmed trees, for instance, are routinely pointed to after hurricanes as causes for outages. He said the council would like more analysis proving those things to be true and offering solutions to them so that it can come up with a plan to reduce or prevent such occurrences.
“It is essential that we get those answers so that we can make wise decisions going forward,” committee Chairman Jason Williams said. “Simply getting a statement about what we want to do is not enough. We want quantifiable data.”
Many of the requests stem from the blackout across Entergy’s service area following Hurricane Isaac in 2012. About half of Entergy New Orleans customers were still without power four days after the storm. The council began conducting an inquiry into Entergy’s response in late 2012, but it still has some unanswered questions, members said.
The council established the following deadlines for receiving information:
IN 60 DAYS: results of Entergy’s evaluation, including conclusions and recommendations, of the feasibility of expanding the company’s pole inspection program.
IN 60 DAYS: a report on Entergy’s plans to elevate or waterproof substation equipment.
In 60 days: a report identifying ways to improve Entergy’s tree-trimming program and recommending modifications to the city’s rules regarding tree trimming.
IN 120 DAYS: detailed information on the results of inspections of Entergy transmission and distribution poles and the present condition of those poles.
IN 120 DAYS: a status report on Entergy’s efforts to work with the city to determine if large infrastructure projects could reduce the cost of placing distribution lines underground.
IN 120 DAYS: a report identifying cost-effective storm-hardening initiatives other than burying equipment, including estimated capital costs and a cost/benefit analysis.
IN 180 DAYS: a report identifying transmission and distribution facilities that would be candidates for being placed underground, including the costs and timeline of such a conversion.